Due to my recent proactivity with my credit and paying off debt, I decided to give the hospital a call where I was admitted about a month ago and ask about my bill. I wanted to make sure I didn't miss it in the mail and I wanted to get an idea of what I'd be paying for my stay. I get on the phone with the billing department and the woman is just as nice as can be, really. She was surprised I'd even called her, considering I didn't even have a bill yet. She told me she'd sent the bill over to my insurance to be approved and paid but they hadn't heard back yet. "Just out of curiosity," I asked, knowing I would be responsible for 20% of the final bill, "how much was it?" What I heard next shocked me.
"$61,000" she said.
I said, "$61,000? I was only in the hospital for a night and only on anti-biotics, you can't be serious! My daughter cost me less than a third of that to give birth to and I was in the hospital two nights!"
I would be even more shocked by what she would say next.
"Well, we are a new hospital so costs are a little higher, but we will send over the amount to your insurance. They will contact us back and let us know what amount they think is fair to pay. Then, of the amount you have left, you and I can negotiate what is affordable for you to pay."
I just couldn't believe my ears.
Let's put this into context. That's like never having a set price on a living room set. At Haverty's, it cost $12,000 to get a new living room set. At Rooms To Go, the same set cost $30,000. At Stacey's, it's $23,000. However, you walk into Rooms To Go, and they say "this set cost $30,000." I say, "I can't afford to pay that." They say, "how much can you afford?" Thinking that since they are all valued at several thousand dollars, I say, "I can afford to pay $10,000." "SOLD!" they say. But in actually, the set really only was worth $1,000.
This is exactly why the healthcare system needs to be overhauled. Nothing has a set price for anything. Because this hospital was closest, I went there. I ended up paying $61,000 that, at other hospitals, would have cost 20% of that. They didn't operate on me. I had an IV with antibiotics, I had blood tests done. The biggest things I had done were X-Rays and two CT scans. I received the bill for those from the imaging company, and those three items, pre-insurance, were $1,000. I ended up getting charged a little over $100. So, where exactly do they get the amount of $61,000?
We say that healthcare costs are high because of lawsuits, pre-existing conditions, and all of the other reasons people can think of, but really, they are high because healthcare providers decide to make them high. Then, the insurance companies pay what they decide is fair and we are stuck with the rest. The thing is, had I walked into that hospital without insurance, I probably would have been given a bill in the range of $5,000, or an amount they could have gotten me to actually pay back.
People think that with our current healthcare system, at least you get a choice. Yes, you do get a choice with doctors, even if it's only a choice of what is in your network. And for some surgeries, you get a choice of hospitals. If you go to an OBGYN, you will deliver at the hospital your doctor works at. Elective surgeries, I guess you get a choice. If if you stop at an ER for stomach pain, you are stopping at the nearest one to you, or whichever hospital the ambulance takes you to. You don't get to shop around hospitals, and even if you did, you have no idea how much they charge for their surgeries. It's not like you can say, "I need to have my gall bladder removed, I would like to see which hospital that charges the best price" because none of them, not even the billing department, know how much that bill will end up being. You don't get a choice. The thing is that doctor's visits aren't what bankrupt people. You don't have insurance to go to the doctor. You really don't. You have insurance in case something catastrophic happens, like your daughter breaks their leg or your appendix ruptures or something like that. I've decided a dentist charges too much, so I find a new one. But the $300 bill I got, compared to the $150 bill from my new dentist, that's not what's going to put me in the hole. It's the 20% of $61,000, which by the way, is $12,200. That's a down payment on a house and an emergency fund. That's a new car. That's renovations on my house. That's two years (or so) at a state university. That I just got charged for one night in the hospital and IV anti-biotics.
You want me to say I am pro-universal healthcare? YOU BET I AM. Imagine if I was a child with cancer. My parents would sacrifice everything to make sure I was better and got healthy. And now, not only do they have to know that their child might die from this disease and watch me suffer day in and day out for God knows how long, they also have to worry about paying tens of thousands, if not hundreds of thousands of dollars, for my hospital bill. And they can't work, not like they used to, when their child is dying in the hospital. It's disgusting. Those people who say healthcare and they ability to be healthy is a priveledge, not a right, have never been shackled by a bill that forced them to declare bankruptcy and for some, worse.
This is just outrageous and it makes me angry. And the big thing is that I bet no one ever calls the hospitals like I did, they just wait for that bill to arrive, never knowing what it started off at before the hospital and insurance negotiated what they decided to charge you for your IV and mediocre hospital breakfast.